PCT Day 29 : The Slog & My First Solo Cowboy Camp

April 22 (~07:50 – ~19:10)
After Big Buck Trail Camp – after KOA (22.4 mi / Total: 446.8 mi)
Weather: the sun is warm but the wind is very chilly, so I feel hot and cold at the same time.

I get up in my own time again and leave just before eight. I probably won’t be camping with the others tonight, for the first time in a while. I’ll be trying to get into the town of Agua Dulce as early as possible tomorrow, so I don’t want to camp any more than fifteen miles away.

I start walking but I’m not motivated. I keep checking the Guthook app to see how far I’ve come but of course I’m not progressing very much at all. I just want to be in town now and I begin dreaming about food. My resupply at Walmart was subpar, and the leftovers of it are even worse. This leg has taken longer than expected because of the snow, and now I am left with the drags.

The views around me are somewhat nondescript compared to everything I’ve seen in the past month. I skirt around the mountains, and it’s the same dry stretch as before. It’s seven miles to the first water source where I climb up to the tiny stream to access the last of the water. Slowly I’m getting frustrated with everything: there are no flat spots without wind to have lunch, and with the odd mix of hot sun and chilly gusts, I feel hot and cold at the same time. Whenever I pace myself I get passed by hikers I’ve never seen before. Who are these people? When did they start? Where did they come from? I wonder if I’ll ever see them again or if they’ll fast track ahead.

I finally sit down and eat wraps with tuna and olive oil. It’s the only thing I have left and it’s somewhat depressing. We wind hits me from behind and I’m cold. So far I’m not feeling today.

I continue to the North Folk Ranger Station. It’s right next the to the trail, and it’s in the middle of nowhere. All the hikers I’ve seen today are there. I get a text from Speedy saying she bought a drink from the ranger but I find out they cost a dollar and I only have twenties. So I put my rubbish in the bin and continue without a drink. Even the huge water bottles available for hikers are too big for me to hold up and decanter so I’ll have to do another five miles with just half a litre.

It’s already later in the afternoon when I reach the tent sites around Mattox Canyon Creek. It’s a lovely little creek in a canyon with multiple flat tent spots dotted around and I would love to stay there, but I’m nowhere near close enough to Agua Dulce. I thought Speedy would set up camp here, but she’s nowhere to be found. Prince isn’t here either – apparently he needed some time to rest his ankle so he took a dirt road out and hitched to the KOA, an official campsite along a highway just ten miles before Agua Dulce, which the trail passes as well.

I text Speedy and tell her I’m either going to the KOA or I’ll walk a bit further and cowboy camp. She’s only a mile ahead of me so she waits and we walk a little together. When we get to the parking lot at the highway just before the KOA we run into some people doing trail magic, and we get easy peelers and a fruit drink. We sit at a picnic table to eat and drink our fresh treasures, and we chat to another hiker there, who’s been powering through the trail – he started five days after us.

We decide to skip the KOA because we’re going to Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce anyways, and we continue hiking into the hilly and dry, open land. Quite a few people are camped in the area, everyone is going to Hiker Heaven in the morning. Speedy is quickly done with the day, and stops at the first flat platform that would take a tent, but I kind of want to walk a bit more. I’ve been feeling sluggish all day but I’m motivated to do just a little more, and I want to take advantage of that. I take out my almonds out for a nibble, and watch on as Speedy erects her tent. I feel bad to continue but she doesn’t mind – and so I go.

I walk another hour and get two miles ahead. It feels great, I fly most of the way. I always get this energy late at night, as though it’s survival instinct that is keeping me alive. Perhaps it’s just the adrenaline of finding a campsite before dark. This time, I find the perfect cowboy camping spot with great views all around me. I’m excited about my first solo cowboy camp spot. I’ve been wanting to do this for days. Tonight I even clean myself with a little water and wash all the dust and dirt off my legs. I watch it rinse off in brown streaks – it’s a true treat compared to the wet wipes I usually use. I sit inside my thick quilt and I feel so alive. I’m really loving being here.

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